NHL CBA News Roundup – July 20, 2012.

The latest tidbits of interest regarding the NHL and NHLPA’s efforts to save the team owners from themselves. Enjoy!

-The Winnipeg Sun’s Paul Friesen recently reported prospects at the Winnipeg Jets development camp were understandably anxious over the possibility of another NHL lockout, and its potential impact upon their career progression.

Unfortunately, Friesen used a poor choice of words at one point to describe their situation, writing “Welcome to the NHL, kid, now go grab a picket sign”.

That gives the impression the PA membership would go on strike if a new CBA isn’t implemented before its expiration date of September 15, which PA director Donald Fehr has already dismissed as a possible course of action.

The last NHL players strike occurred over twenty years ago, in April 1992, lasting ten days, and was based primarily on a dispute over revenues from hockey cards.

If the 2012-13 season doesn’t begin on time, it’s because the players will be locked out by ownership, which is what happened in the previous two NHL labor disputes.

 

Jonathan Willis of The Edmonton Journal points out the NHL’s proposed reduction of the players share of revenue from the current 57 percent down to 46 percents (and the subsequent lowering of the salary cap to roughly $54 million and the cap floor to $42 million) not only provides more revenue for the supposed struggling clubs, but also for the big market teams too.

The (Toronto Maple)Leafs, using these figures, come away with an extra $16 million even if they continue to spend to the cap. It’s a similar story for other high-revenue teams. For those teams, it’s less a matter of survival than it is of padding their profits.

Willis concludes by suggesting a combination of the players accepting a reduced revenue share (likely a 50-50 split) combined with the owners (“if they’re serious about keeping all 30 teams viable”) willingness to work out a more equitable split of revenues amongst themselves.

That’s revenue-sharing, of course, something the big market owners are loath to consider, but consider it they must, if they want to prevent this issue rising up again to bite them in the ass a few years from now.

 

The Globe & Mail’s Bruce Dowbiggin recently raised the issue of a potential “broadcasting vacuum” for the sports TV networks set to televise NHL games this fall, especially in Canada, where hockey is king.

Dowbiggin believes NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is stubbornly determined to make the salary cap work, even at the cost once again of part (or all) of another NHL season, gambling on hockey fans running back as they’ve done in the past, especially for televised games.

He noted the NHL has more lucrative television contracts than when it shut down eight years ago, which could be a factor in determining how long a lockout might last.

Dowbiggin isn’t the only one suggesting this. Several of his fellow pundits, along with some hockey bloggers, believe the league might bring a lockout to an end by December to cash in on the big money part of the schedule, which starts on New Year’s Day with the Winter Classic.

We’ll see if it comes to that, but one has to believe the league brain trust won’t want to do anything which jeopardizes their new broadcasting deals should a labor dispute drag on too long.

 

Mike Brophy of Sportsnet would like to see “no-trade/no-movement” clauses banished in the next round of CBA negotiations.

His reasoning is those clauses limit the potential trade destinations for players carrying them in their contracts, making it more difficult to trade them. Rick Nash with Columbus and Roberto Luongo with Vancouver are two recent examples.

It can also be argued, however, that those clauses ensure a player remains with a team long-term, providing them a measure of control over their future.

Besides, it’s the salary cap, not the trade/movement clauses, which has been the real hindrance in player movement.

Yes, there’s no denying such clauses can be a pain in the butt for a GM trying to move an unhappy player (hello there, Bryan Murray and Dany Heatley), but these situations occur infrequently.

Last season, 146 players had some version of a “no-trade/no-movement” clause in their respective contracts. The overwhelming majority of them weren’t considered “trade bait”, fewer still were mentioned in any serious trade discussions.

Only a few were traded (David Booth, Mike Cammalleri, Rene Bourque, Jaroslav Spacek, Marek Zidlicky, Zbynek Michalek), with those moves going off rather smoothly.

The real hindrance to trades is the salary cap.

When each season begins, the free-spending clubs have already “maxed out” their payroll, meaning they’d have to either shed salary or do “dollar-for-dollar” swaps, while clubs under lower, self-imposed cap ceilings are unwilling or unable to take on additional salary.

 

David Shoalts of The Globe and Mail considers the Philadelphia Flyers offer sheet to Shea Weber as a prime example of how big market teams plunder their smaller market cousins, forcing them into the unpalatable choice of spending more than they can afford to retain those players, or lose them for little or nothing.

League critics consider it hypocrisy for the league to demand a reduction in the players share of revenue to help their struggling franchises while big monied teams like the Flyers tender huge contract offers to top players.

I believe the league will try to spin that in their favor by claiming reducing the player revenue share will give the smaller markets (like the Predators) a better opportunity to retain their best players.

That’s nonsense, of course. Such a move is putting a bandaid on a sucking chest wound, but the league will try to peddle it as a lifesaver for teams like the Predators.

1 Comment

  1. To avoid a ‘Danny Heatley’ situation in the future perhaps there should be a rule that states when a player with a no trade contract demands to be traded they in turn then must waive their right to pick and choose where they go. Either that or at the minimum put a limit on the number of teams they can list as non-destinations.